People with Passion
Ronald J. Baltierra
Interview February 4, 2011
This started in ’09. I had a street light right next to my house that lit up the alley. I’m right next to the El. That street light shined 75% of that alley. Illuminated it. That was out for almost five months. And by that light being out, it looked like Sleepy Hollow. You familiar with Sleepy Hollow? They put in all these new trees in the front of my building, and then they don’t trim them. I’ve been trimming my trees ever since they installed them ten years ago. If you look at the other side of the street, you’ll see it looks like Sleepy Hollow. The street lights, when they’re on, that area’s all dark. My side of the street, when the lights are on, it’s lit up because I trimmed everything at least twenty feet off the ground.
That was the beginning. I started to realize, My god. They came to us, and said, “Hey, I’ll give you a tree. You don’t have to pay for it. We want to beautify the neighborhood.” I says, “Okay fine. But don’t put it in front of my sewer line,” because an existing tree busted out my sewer line, and I had to pay 4500 dollars to repair it. That was a city tree. I said, “No more trees in front of my house.” Started getting concerned back then, like, “Who’s paying for all this?” The city wants to beautify, and yet I have to pay for the repairs.
So my sewer went. I paid for that. The light was out for five months. They broke into my basement. I do shows. I do karaoke and DJ for Mexican events, or for senior events. That’s where I entertain seniors. They broke into my basement, stole my equipment. They found a body fifty feet from my doorway wrapped in plastic, duct taped, and stuffed in a duffle bag. Because of the light being out. I screamed and cried about that for about another month. Nothing was being done. They said it was not a problem.
Potholes! I lost my muffler in a pothole. My daughter lost her front end in a pothole. My neighbors in the building I live in have lost one thing or another due to the potholes. Potholes been like that for, I’d have to say, at least five years. Major potholes. I got photos. I started an organization called U.N.I.T.E. that came from the south side. That’s United Neighbors to Improve The Environment. I picked that up and brought it to the north side about two years ago. People worked with me instantly. I had a good 45 people jump on the bandwagon because they wanted me to clean that area up.
CTA put a fence up to prevent the homeless from moving in and sleeping around the work house. So that was another issue. They had lots of homeless people living there. They had prostitution there. I got rid of the prostitutes. I called the police and the police came, and they went to remove the prostitutes, and the prostitutes say to the police, “We didn’t do anything wrong. Why are you jumping on us?” And the police would say, “The guy in that house right there called us, and he wants us to remove you.” Oh my god! I’m looking through the crack of the door trying to see what’s going on, and all of a sudden when they pointed the finger at me, boom! I close the door and go, “Oh man. Now I gotta face these people.” Which I did. And I had to face them. That was a headache in itself.
We own an apartment building. Nice apartment building. Rehabbed. Put a lot of money in it. We couldn’t get any tenants this last time around because graffiti was all over the place and it wasn’t being removed. Finally I got a hold of the alderman – Manny Flores, which was the alderman before this one – and they took forever to clean it up. The new one came on board. I said, “I want to be this guy’s friend. I want to get him to help me clean this up.” Well, I got a hold of him, and he was even worse because he had no experience. He was handpicked by Mayor Daley. Handpicking someone with no experience is a little different than grabbing someone that knows the street and the community.
Daley says, “I’m looking for an alderman. You want to be an alderman, raise your hand.” I raise my hand. I was one of the ninety that submitted my name. I was one of sixty that qualified. I was one of five at the end of the day when the mayor made his choice. And I thought that everybody’s thinking, “Wow, this is a fair, honest mayor’s attempt to find an alderman.” Well, if you go back and look at one of Moreno’s sites, in his site he says that he was handpicked and sent to the mayor for the mayor to select him to make him the next alderman. Totally opposite of what the mayor said: “I’m looking for someone.” He’s admitting he was handpicked and hand-delivered. Manny Flores took him to the mayor and said, “This guy wants to succeed me.”
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